L’appel du Vide

The French are good at two things: Eating snails and making up words that we don’t have in English.

Seigneur-terraces is their word for people who sit at coffee shops and take up tables for hours without spending any money.  When I waited tables, we used to call them, “Those dumb sonsofbitches over there that have been sitting there making me refill their tea for four hours and I only have a four table section in the first place.”

See? It takes a lot more words my way.

L’esprit de l’escalier is what they call that brutal feeling you get when you come up with a snappy comeback after you’ve left the situation. It translates literally to “stairwell wit.”

I love these words, because we take a paragraph in to describe the same thing. L’appel du vide is my favorite.

The Call of the Void.

It’s a touchier one because it requires us to admit to the darker parts of ourselves.  L’appel du vide explains that fleeting internal suggestion that tells you to swerve into oncoming traffic or to take a step off the cliff’s edge when you’re supposed to be admiring the view.

Of course, we’d never actually act on that. They’re just automatic thoughts that appear out of nowhere.

They can be awful, terrible things, and they rise up from the depths of our subconscious without our permission, terrifying and unexpected, like alligators from sewer drains. We can shrug them off and never talk about them, but they remain down inside somewhere, banging on the pipes and shaking the doors, and the longer we leave them below, ignored, the worse they want out.

To me, comedy has always been the suboxone that keeps that darkness at bay. I joke about it, and I joke about it all, and if you’ve read my book, you know that I went for the laugh literally within 90 seconds after my father’s death, still in the hospital room.

Morbid? Absolutely. Immoral? Au contraire.

Somewhere in the last few years, we stopped acting like this was an okay thing. We began sneering and dismantling anyone who appeared to victimize anyone in a joke.

Certainly, Daniel Tosh telling a woman he hopes she gets raped is arguable ground (though I admittedly can argue both sides of this particular case), but it’s now degenerated into a forensic look at anyone who’s ever posted on Twitter.

We’ve been laughing at things we shouldn’t since we were children, and it’s silly that we’ve started acting otherwise.  It’s one of the ways we deal with the horrors of reality.

What do you call a man with no arms and no legs ________________?

In a pool? Bob.

On a wall? Art.

You remember those. Pick your favorite.

And dead baby jokes? Yeah, man. Every executive at Disney knows a million, but James Gunn got fired? But Gunn was talking about real defenseless groups of people! Umm, what group could possibly be more helpless than babies? And dead babies? They’re even more helpless.

What’s my point? We all have really jacked up thoughts, but there remains a drastic difference between people who tell dead baby jokes and people who kill babies, the very same way there’s a difference between l’appel du vide and the guy who actually drives his car through a Christmas Market.

We are not nearly as fragile as individuals as we are currently acting collectively.

Be the sensible one.

They say if you stare into the Void, eventually the Void stares back.  I say laugh into it and see what else it’s capable of.



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